Prime Icons



KL Lifestyle Art Space is proud to present “Prime Icons,” showcasing an astounding, rare and priced body of works by two of Malaysia’s most celebrated and sought after artists:, Awang Damit Ahmad and Yusof Ghani. This exhibition offers a rare opportunity to experience the artistic evolution and creative prowess of these two iconic towering figures in Malaysian art.

“Prime Icons”, showcases a diverse collection of their masterpieces, including both renowned pieces and previously unseen works, offering a comprehensive view of their artistic journeys. Awang Damit Ahmad’s profound and textured narratives, and Yusof Ghani’s dynamic and expressive forms converge in a visual symphony that highlights their significant contributions to the art world in the Malaysian context.

The exhibition not only celebrates their individual talents but also reflects the rich tapestry of Malaysian culture and identity through the eyes of these two maestros. Visitors will be immersed in a visual dialogue that spans decades, capturing the essence of Malaysian art through the masterful strokes of these esteemed artists. This exhibition at KL Lifestyle Art Space promises to be a landmark event, inviting art enthusiasts and collectors alike to explore and appreciate the depth and diversity of Malaysia’s artistic visual diary through the journey of these two important Malaysian abstract expressionist.

Awang Damit Ahmad

A Beacon of Malaysia’s Art and Culture

Awang Damit Ahmad is a prominent figure in the art world, particularly known for his significant contributions to the contemporary art scene in Malaysia and Brunei. Born in a fishing village in Kuala Penyu, Sabah in 1956, Awang Damit has carved out a niche for himself through his expressive and evocative artworks that reflect a deep connection to his cultural heritage and personal experiences. Over the years, his works have gained national and international recognition, solidifying his status as one of the leading contemporary artists in Southeast Asia.

AWANG DAMIT AHMAD EOC Series Ting Ting Elegi Anak Kecil, 1987 Mixed media on canvas 115 x 145 cm

Awang Damit’s journey into the world of art began in his hometown, where he was surrounded by the natural beauty and cultural richness of Sabah. His early life was marked by a strong sense of community and a deep appreciation for the environment, both of which would later influence his artistic style and themes. Awang Damit pursued his formal education in art at the Mara Institute of Technology (now known as Universiti Teknologi MARA or UiTM), where he obtained a Diploma in Fine Art in 1983 and went on to do his masters degree in fine art at the Catholic University in Washington in 1984. His time at UiTM was formative, exposing him to various art forms and techniques and allowing him to refine his skills under the guidance of experienced mentors.

Awang Damit Ahmad’s artistic style is characterized by its abstract expressionism, with a strong emphasis on texture, colour, and form. His works often incorporate elements of his cultural heritage, blending traditional motifs with contemporary techniques. This fusion creates a unique visual language that resonates with both local and international audiences.

One of the recurring themes in Awang Damit’s work is the exploration of identity, childhood memories and heritage which is visible predominantly in the highly sought and priced “Intipati Budaya” or “Essence of Culture Series” which he painted between 1985 and 1995. The “Essence of Culture Series” is the most widely collected series by the artist by the various institution and corporate collections including Singapore Art Museum, National Heritage Board of Singapore, National Gallery Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia, Maybank, Petronas, to name a few.

Awang Damit has exhibited his works in numerous solo and group exhibitions both locally and internationally. His exhibitions have been held in prestigious venues such as the National Art Gallery of Malaysia, the Singapore Art Museum, and the Osaka Triennale in Japan. These exhibitions have helped to establish his reputation as a leading contemporary artist and have brought his work to a global audience. It should also be noted here that his inaugural exhibition for “Essence of Culture” series was held in Singapore at Shenn’s Gallery on April 8, 1994 followed by an exhibition of the second body of the works from the series at the National Art Gallery in Malaysia on April 18, 1995.

Awang Damit Ahmad’s body of work is extensive, with numerous notable series that have garnered critical acclaim. Among his most other recognized series is “Marista,” which he began in the early 1990s. These paintings reflected the landscapes, traditions, and social issues of his homeland, providing a poignant commentary on the changes and challenges faced by his community. Through his art, he seeks to preserve and celebrate his cultural roots while also addressing broader human experiences and emotions.

The “Marista” series delves further into his childhood memories with a play on the landscape he was exposed to during his growing years in Sabah with regular reflection of the culture and heritage of the people in his community in Kuala Penyu and Sabah. A wide selection of this body of works can be seen in the collection of Petronas, Malaysia and several major institutions.

Another significant important series is “Iraga,” which further explores the themes of cultural identity and heritage. The “Iraga” series is particularly known for its intricate textures and dynamic compositions, which evoke a sense of movement and vitality. Through these works, Awang Damit demonstrates his mastery of technique and his ability to convey deep emotional and cultural messages.

Furthermore, Awang Damit’s work has had a significant impact on the cultural landscape of Brunei. By incorporating elements of Bruneian culture into his art, he has helped to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of the country’s rich artistic traditions. His works serve as a bridge between past and present, traditional and contemporary, highlighting the enduring relevance of cultural heritage in a rapidly changing world.

Over the course of his career, Awang Damit Ahmad has received several awards and honors in recognition of his contributions to the art world. In 1991, he was awarded the Major Award at the Salon Malaysia, a prestigious national art competition. This accolade was a significant milestone in his career, affirming his status as an influential artist in Malaysia.

In addition to national recognition, Awang Damit’s work has also been acknowledged internationally. He has participated in numerous international art fairs and biennales, where his works have been praised for their originality and emotional depth. His international presence has helped to elevate the profile of Malaysian and Bruneian contemporary art on the global stage.

Awang Damit Ahmad’s influence extends beyond his own artistic practice. As a respected educator, he has played a crucial role in nurturing the next generation of artists in Malaysia. He has taught at several institutions, including UiTM, where he has inspired countless students with his passion and dedication to the arts. Through his teaching, he has helped to shape the future of contemporary art in the region, instilling in his students a deep appreciation for cultural heritage and artistic expression.

Despite his busy career, Awang Damit Ahmad remains deeply connected to his roots. He continues to draw inspiration from his surroundings, whether it is the lush landscapes of Sabah or the vibrant cultural tapestry of Brunei. His personal life is a testament to his commitment to his family and community, and he often emphasizes the importance of these connections in his work.

Awang Damit is known for his humility and generosity, qualities that have endeared him to many in the art community and beyond. He frequently participates in community events and initiatives, using his art to support various causes and to give back to society. His philanthropic efforts further underscore his belief in the power of art to effect positive change and to bring people together.

Awang Damit Ahmad’s remarkable career as an artist and educator has left an indelible mark on the art world in Malaysia and Brunei. His evocative works, which blend traditional and contemporary elements, offer profound insights into cultural identity, heritage, and human experience. Through his art, Awang Damit has not only preserved and celebrated his cultural roots but has also addressed broader social and political issues, making his work relevant and resonant to a diverse audience.

Yusof Ghani

A Journey Through Art and Activism

Yusof Ghani, one of Malaysia’s most distinguished artists, is celebrated for his dynamic and evocative works that bridge the realms of painting, sculpture, and installation. His art, deeply embedded in the socio-political and cultural contexts of Malaysia, reflects a profound engagement with issues of identity, heritage, and human experience. Over the decades, Ghani’s artistic journey has been marked by a continuous evolution of style and themes, making him a pivotal figure in the Malaysian and international art scenes.

Born in 1950 in Johor, Malaysia, Yusof Ghani’s early life was shaped by the rich cultural milieu of his homeland. His initial exposure to art came through local traditions and crafts, which would later influence his thematic and aesthetic sensibilities. Ghani’s formal journey into the world of art began at the University Teknologi MARA (UiTM), where he completed his diploma in art and design in 1979. His academic pursuits took him further to the United States, where he studied at George Mason University in Virginia, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, followed by a Master’s degree in Fine Arts at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.

As a young student studying in America, Ghani’s work took a more politically charged direction with the extremely rare and limited “Protest” series. These works emerged in response to various global and local socio-political issues, including conflicts, injustices, and human rights violations especially the Cuban conflict he had witnessed whilst being in America in the early 1980’s. The “Protest” series is stark and confrontational, utilizing darker palettes and intense compositions to evoke a sense of urgency and despair. Through these works, Ghani sought to raise awareness and provoke discourse on critical issues, reaffirming his role not just as an artist but as a social commentator and activist.

One of Ghani’s most renowned series, “Siri Tari,” emerged in the 1983 whilst completing his studies in Washington and held a solo exhibition for the inaugural “Protest” and “Siri Tari” early works in Anton Gallery, Washington the same year. This series marked a significant departure from his earlier, more politically infused works, showcasing a vibrant and abstract expressionist style. The “Siri Tari” is characterized by its energetic gestural brushstrokes and vivid colours, capturing the fluidity and dynamism of human movement. The influences of the American contemporary masters, Willem De Kooning, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock can be traced in these paintings.

These “Siri Tari” paintings are not just depictions of dance but are metaphorical explorations of freedom, identity, and the human spirit. The series resonated with audiences both in Malaysia and internationally, establishing Ghani’s reputation as a formidable force in contemporary art. Today, the “Siri Tari” is without a doubt, the most important series created by the maestro and is highly sought after by major art collectors in Malaysia and Singapore.

The “Topeng” (Mask) series, which began in the late 1990s, further showcases Ghani’s versatility and depth as an artist. This body of works was inspired by the vast collection of African masks he had seen during a visit to The Metropolitan Museum in New York whilst doing his masters degree at the Catholic University in Washington. This series delves into themes of identity and disguise, using masks as symbolic representations of the multiple facets of human nature and society. The “Topeng” series is notable for its intricate textures and layered compositions, blending elements of traditional Malaysian art with contemporary techniques. Through these works, Ghani explores the complexities of identity in a rapidly changing world, reflecting on how individuals and communities navigate the tensions between tradition and modernity.

Yusof Ghani’s influence extends beyond his artistic creations. As a teacher and mentor, he has played a crucial role in nurturing the next generation of Malaysian artists.

His tenure at UiTM, where he served as a lecturer and later as the Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design, has left an indelible mark on the institution and its students. Ghani’s commitment to education and his advocacy for the arts have significantly contributed to the growth and recognition of Malaysian contemporary art on the global stage.

Ghani’s works have been exhibited in numerous prestigious galleries and museums worldwide, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum, and the Singapore Art Museum. His art has garnered critical acclaim and has been collected by both private and public institutions, further cementing his status as a leading figure in the art world.

Yusof Ghani’s artistic journey is a testament to the power of art as a medium for expression, reflection, and activism. His works, spanning over four decades, encapsulate a rich tapestry of cultural, social, and political narratives that resonate deeply with audiences across the globe. Ghani’s ability to evolve and adapt his style and themes while remaining true to his core concerns of identity, heritage, and human experience underscores his significance as an artist and thinker.

The “Biring” series, also known as the “Cockerel” series, stands out for its vibrant and energetic depiction of cockfighting scenes. This series draws inspiration from the traditional Southeast Asian pastime of cockfighting, which is rich in cultural significance. Ghani’s approach to this subject is far from literal; instead, he employs abstract forms and vigorous brushstrokes to capture the essence of the combat and the intense emotions surrounding it.

The paintings in the “Biring” series are characterized by their dynamic compositions, where swirling lines and bold colours create a sense of movement and chaos. The use of mixed media, including acrylics and oil paints, adds texture and depth to the works.

The cockerels, often depicted in mid-fight, appear almost as phantoms, their forms dissolving into the background. This technique not only emphasizes the brutality and beauty of the fight but also suggests a deeper commentary on human conflict and struggle.

In the “Hijau” series, the artist moves towards a more serene and contemplative style. The paintings often feature abstract representations of forests, plants, and other natural elements. The green hues dominate the canvases, symbolizing growth, renewal, and the importance of the natural world.

Through these works, Yusof Ghani not only celebrates the beauty of nature but also underscores the urgent need for environmental conservation. The series serves as a visual plea to the audience, encouraging a deeper appreciation and responsibility towards nature.

The “Wajah” series, which translates to “Faces,” represents another facet of his artistic exploration. This series delves into the human condition, portraying a wide array of emotions and identities through abstracted human faces. The “Wajah” series is less about literal representation and more about capturing the essence of human experience.

Yusof Ghani’s technique in the “Wajah” series involves layering colours and textures to create complex, multifaceted portraits. The faces often appear fragmented, with features overlapping and dissolving into one another. This approach reflects the complexity and multiplicity of human identity, suggesting that every individual is a blend of various experiences, emotions, and histories. The “Wajah” series is particularly striking for its emotional depth, as Ghani uses colour and form to convey a spectrum of feelings from joy and serenity to anguish and confusion.

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